The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) Script

This is the most famous true African adventure, famous because what took place at Tsavo never happened before.

Colonel John Patterson was there when it began.

A fine Irish gentleman, a brilliant engineer.

He was my friend.

My name is Samuel.

I was there.

Remember this...

Even the most impossible parts of this story really happened.

John Henry Patterson. I'm Robert Beaumont.

Firm handshake. I like that. Tells me a lot about you.

Do sit down.

Now, why don't you tell me about me?

Well, to get you started, many people fine me handsome with a wonderful smile.

I'm sure you agree.

Winning personality, heaps of charm.

My wife is the game player in the family, sir.

Thank you, gentlemen.

Look at me closely, Colonel Patterson.

I'm a monster.

My only pleasure is tormenting those people who work for me.

People like yourself.

Make one mistake, and I promise you, I'll make you hate me.

We're in a race, Colonel, and the prize is nothing less than the continent of Africa.

We are building the most expensive and daring railroad in history for the glorious purpose of saving Africa from the Africans and, of course, to end slavery.

Our competitors are the Germans and the French.

We are ahead and we will stay ahead, provided you do what I've hired you to do.

Build a bridge across the River Tsavo and be finished in five months.

Can you do that?

I am sure you've examined my record.

You know I've never been late on a bridge.

I'm well aware of your distinguished record, Colonel, but let me humbly remind you, you've never built in Africa.

I have in India.

Each country presents its own challenges.

You'll need all your confidence, I promise you.

I love Africa. I've always wanted to go there.

And if I may speak personally, my wife is having our firstborn in six months, and I promised her I'd be there for the birth, and I always keep my word.

Very moving, Colonel Patterson.

I'm... I'm touched confided in me, but I really don't give a shit about your upcoming litter.

I've made you with this assignment.

Don't make me break you.

You won't have the opportunity.

Any other words of encouragement?

Then I have a train to catch.

Tell me about Beaumont.

Does he understand how brilliant you are?

How lucky he is to have you?

It was embarrassing. The man showered me with praise.

Oh, dear. Tsk.

You're getting that downtrodden look again.

No. No.

I would never have taken this had we known sooner.

And you would have been in agony, and it would have been my fault.

You've been desperate to see Africa all your life.

There may be difficulties.

There will be. There always are.

Which only means that our son and I, note my confidence, will have an excuse to come and visit you.

All aboard!

Come along. Put me on the train.

You go.

Such a gentleman.

I am desperate to see Africa, but it's just a place.

You build bridges, John.

You have to go where the rivers are.


Colonel Patterson!

No... No, thank you.

Colonel Patterson, yes? No, thank you.

No, thank you. No, thank you.

Welcome to Africa, sir, and good morning.

Angus Starling. I am to assist you at Tsavo.

But Beaumont will have told you that, surely.

No, actually.

He did give me his monster speech.

That. Oh, I know Robert seems dreadful, but once you truly get to know the man, he's much worse.

And I'm one of his defenders.

Forget him for now.

Follow me, sir.

It's your first trip to Africa, yes?

Good, because I've reserved the best seats on the train.

They're amazing, aren't they?

You know the most amazing thing about them?

They sleep only five minutes a day.

Don't like them much.

The females are bigger.

Only animals here like that.

Have to be or they wouldn't survive because the males eat the young.

Anything special about them?

Well, it's just that they fart through their mouths.

I bet they don't kiss very much.

I've lived in Africa for a year, and I don't know what you know.

How long have you been here?

Just about 24 hours.

But I've been longing for this all my life.

Welcome to Tsavo.


Samuel's camp liaison, absolutely indispensable.

He's the only man here everyone trusts.

Does he speak English?

And very poor French.

Samuel, Colonel John Patterson.

The bridge builder.

We've been getting ready for you.

Good. I'd like to see the bridge site.

I've got some medical supplies to deliver.

Come along to the hospital when you're done.

I'll bring him, Angus.

Where are you from, Samuel?

That way, beyond those mountains.

I'm from...

Over there.

Everything seems to be under control.

Thank you. If it is, it's a miracle.

Why is that?

The truth is, the workers don't like each other at all.

Obviously, the Africans hate the Indians, but the Indians also hate other Indians.

The Hindus believe cows are sacred, while the Muslims eat the cows.

Do you eat a cow?

Of course.

I've worked with both Hindu and Muslim.

Perhaps I can help.

You can certainly try. It won't work.

Nothing works here.

Tsavo is the worst place in the world.

Advance camp is across there.

How many workers?

Three thousand men laying track.

Even though your bridge is not yet built, each day they move two miles further away.

Did it look like this in your mind?


This is more difficult.

Should be difficult.

What better job in all the world than build a bridge?

Bring land over water.

Bring worlds together.

Finish your tour?

Is this mostly malaria?

Yes, but their suffering is only transitory.

Once they accept God into their hearts.

That's just vomitus talk, Mr. Starling.

Poor bastards will get even sicker if you don't shut up.

David Hawthorne.

I'm, um...

This is my hospital.

And my advice to you is...

Don't get sick.

That was meant to be charming.

Sorry. I seem to have lost the knack.

You never had it.

Angus and I don't like each other much.

I am also a liaison between these two.

Clearly, you don't share Beaumont's vision.

This? This is a sham.

Who needs it? It's ridiculous.

It's only being built to protect the ivory trade, make rich men richer.

Then why stay, Doctor?

Who else would hire me?

Beat you to it, didn't I?

Dr. Hawthorne... Oh, yes.

I almost forgot.

You seem to have brought bad luck with you. Come here.

This is Karim, one of my orderlies.

He was attacked by a man-eater earlier today.

A man-eater attacks, and you're such a buffoon, you almost forget to mention it.

His injuries are only slight.

Been riding his donkey not far from here, when suddenly a lion sprang on them.

Donkey took the brunt of it, then the lion ran off.

Thank you, Karim.

Now, I know this is your first day, and you must be tired.

But, um...

What are you going to do about it?

With any luck, I'll sort it out this evening.

I don't suppose I could come and watch?

Have you ever hunted?

Well, not exactly.

I've never been very adventurous.

Can you keep quiet?

I hate to be a bother, John, but...

The cramp is getting worse.

The pain is actually quite unbearable now.

You'll just have to cope with it, Angus.

That is precisely my plan.

But back at my tent.

You'll be dead before you even get to your tent.

The lion will eat you.

I know.

Is this the best way to hunt a lion?

I don't know.

I've never even seen one.


One shot!

One shot!

Patterson has made the night safe again!

My God, you sorted it out.

There is nothing like the fear a man-eater brings.

They own the night and kill so quickly.

It was clear to the men that Patterson was willing to take risks for them.

That one shot had taken their fears away.

All right, Angus.

I've decided to have you and Mahina oversee the foundation piers.

Of course, the hardest part about building a bridge is the foundation piers, and for that task, I'm giving you four thrilling weeks.

Aren't we full of ourselves today?

I think it's because of the lion.

Uh, John, you know, I also have killed a lion.

How many shots did you need?

I used my hands.


Uh, John, four weeks is just not enough time.

You'll just have to use your hands.

Hey, Samuel!

Come in.

One shot.

The claws of the lion you killed.

Thank you.

It will always remind me of Africa.

It is meant to remind you of courage.

It will also protect you.

Wear it.

"Darling, "you know how God invented liquor so the Irish wouldn't rule the world?

"Well, I sometimes think he invented being bullheaded

"so we could be the best at something, "for when this bridge is finished, "it will have nothing to do with my engineering skill

"and all to do with my stubbornness.


"It changes everything I plan, "yet still we are somehow ahead of schedule.

"Mahina, my foreman, deserves so much credit.

"The man is a marvel.

"Oh, another marvel.

"Starling has actually convinced some of the natives to convert.

"I cannot wait to show this beautiful country to you.

"Love, John."

Simba! Simba!

What the lion must have done was lick his skin off so he could drink his blood.

Then he feasted on him, starting with his feet.

Lions don't eat this way. Are you sure this was a lion?

We followed his tracks.

What sort of lion could carry off someone Mahina's size?

Terror had now built a home inside us and would not leave, because if Mahina, who was so powerful, could not save himself, what could the rest of us do?

* Toora loo, toora lay

* Oh, it's six miles from Bangor to Donaghadee

* Toora loo, toora lay

* Oh, it's six miles from Bangor to Donaghadee *

You want us to work even if we have to die to do it!

Why is there no work being done?

Malaria epidemic. Very sudden.

There is no reason for fear.

On that I choose to remain dubious.

Two are dead now in two nights.

A second? Far end of the camp.

A man wandering alone at night.

There's even less of him than there was of Mahina.

It's too soon for a lion to kill from hunger.

In our village, we construct thorn-bush fences around where we live.

Big burning fires at night. That keeps the lion away.

Good. Get started.

And a strict curfew.

No one is allowed out of their tent at night.

Abdullah, you'll send half your men with Samuel to help build these fences.

The other half you'll take to the bridge.

Now, I'll sort this out.

I will kill the lion, and I will build the bridge.

Of course you will.

You are white. You can do anything.

It would be a mistake not to work together on this thing, Abdullah.

No! It's got to be tighter!

You see? This has got to be a wall!

What a good week.

You mean nobody died?

Well, we all worked together.

Worthy deeds were accomplished.

I like the labor.

My mother insisted on piano lessons.

Broke the dear woman's heart when it turned out I was tone-deaf, but she was always on at me to be careful with my hands.

I like the blood.

Is that so strange?


Oh, yes. I think so.

Here it comes, Samuel.

Even you two must admit it is glorious what man can accomplish.

With one common splendid goal, there are no limits.

Think what will be done when we all have God's warmth in our hearts.

I am immune to your disdain.

When I came here, I had one small goal, to convert the entire continent of Africa.

Now I've decided to move on to something really difficult.

I will not rest until both of you are safely in the fold.

I'm beyond conversion.

My mother's Roman Catholic, and my father's a Protestant.

I have four wives.

Good luck.

The struggle is the glory.

For you.

Thank you, Samuel.

Good news.

I expect so... From my wife.

You like her?

Very much.

I don't like any of mine.

"Darling, the big excitement yesterday

"was when some schoolchildren spotted a whale.

"They were looking at me, John.

"That was an attempt at humor, but I don't feel very funny these days.

"Anyway, after our son, "you'll note I still have total confidence, "well, after he's born, I think travel might be the order of the day.

"As he kicks me at night, I'm quite sure he's telling me

"he definitely wants to come to Africa.

"Thought you might need reminding."

Move! Move yourselves! Move!

Angus! Stay here.

Oh, God!

Jesus. There are two of them.

Oh, Jesus.

"And the king spake and said unto Daniel, "'Oh, Daniel, servant of the living God, "'is thy God, whom thou servest continually, "'able to deliver thee from the lions?'

"And Daniel said unto the king, 'Oh, king, live forever.

"'My God hath sent his angels and hath shut the lions' mouths

"'that they have not hurt me, "'for as much as before him, innocency was found in me.

"'And as before thee, oh, king, have I done no hurt.

"'Have I done no hurt.'"

The men called them the Ghost and the Darkness.

There were two of them, and that had never happened before because man-eaters are always alone.

They owned the nights, but they also attacked in daylight, alone or together, without fear or reason.

Some thought they were not lions at all, but the spirits of dead medicine men come back to spread madness.

For others, they were the devil, sent to stop the white men from owning the world.

I believed this, that they were evil, and what better ground for evil to walk than Tsavo?

Because this is what the word "Tsavo" means, a place of slaughter.

I've given you my word. Why haven't you told them help is on the way?

It's too late now, Mr. Patterson.

It's not too late. Abdullah, they will listen to you. You must make them stay.

They are too afraid to work. They want to go home.

Be content that I have decided to stay.

Beaumont is on that train.

If he sees this mess, you will lose your job.

So will you, sir. That's all, really, you care about.

Oh, for Christ...

Well, then, you go, too.

You lack the courage to lead.

Go. Tell all of your men to go, but I will kill the lions, and I will build the bridge, and you, you must go home and tell the wives of the men who died working here that you fled with the others because you could not master your fear.

Welcome to Tsavo.

Pleasant journey?

How could it be? I hate Africa.

That's a lovely sound. They seem happy.

Don't they, though?

So, work's going well?

What of my request for soldiers?

I told you before. You're on your own.

There will be no soldiers here.

I promised my men protection.

Where's Starling?

A while back, he ordered some Bibles.

I've brought them. Is he here?

Where is he? Where's Starling?

Here he comes.

What happened?

I'll show you.

Nothing wrong with these people.

They're afraid.

What the hell is going on?

The Ghost and the Darkness have come.

In English.

It's what the natives are calling the lions.

There's a legend here. Two man-eaters are making all the trouble.

Well, this is Africa, Patterson. I thought you were a hunter.

It's not that simple.

These lions are...

Not like lions.

How many have they killed?

About 30, I should think.


You've been here three months, and already you're behind schedule.

Don't you know that the French and the Germans are right behind you?

And I don't care about you, and I don't care about the 30 dead.

I care about my knighthood.

As to your request for troops, do we wish the world to think that the builders of the British Empire are afraid to do their job because of a few minor difficulties with the local wildlife?

I don't think so.

So, what are you planning to do?

I'm calling it my contraption.

I placed it here because this is the area of the camp where the lions have attacked the most.

I'm surrounding it with a boma...


A fence.

Except for this small area here opposite this door.

Just what kind of lunacy are we dealing with here? Hmm?

On the other side of these bars will be bait, human bait.

I'll start things off.

About here will be a tripwire for this sliding door.


The beast will enter, tripping the wire, the door will slide down behind him, trapping him.

You, meanwhile, safe behind your bars, will have the beast at your mercy and will shoot him at your leisure.

Are you running a high fever, man?

How could you conceive of something so idiotic?

I didn't conceive of it for the lions.

It was for a tiger in India.

And it worked?

In point of fact, it didn't, but I'm convinced the theory is sound.

I made a mistake hiring you, Patterson.

The world is watching us.

I need initiative, not contraptions.

I need a professional hunter.

I'm going to locate Remington.

I assume you've heard of him.

Every man who's ever hunted has heard of him.

I wish he were here right now, but by the time you find him, the lions will be dead, and I'll be back on schedule.

All right, the job's still yours, but only because it would take too long to find a replacement.

I'll go, but if I have to return, you're finished.

I will then do everything within my considerable power to destroy your reputation.

Fair enough?

I told you you'd hate me.

"Helena, everything is collapsing on me.

"Every morning, the ground is soaked with blood.

"The workers feel I brought this terror

"since it didn't begin till my arrival.

"Whatever I try, they seem to know.

"All the deaths are on me."

Very good. Very impressive.

We've been hunting since childhood.

You're murderers, criminals...

That's good.

You'll be spending your nights in there, and of course, you'll have nothing to fear.

That is correct. Nothing.

Fire! Fire!


Fire! Fire!


Of course he kept moving!

What did you want him to do, sit down and pose for you?

Now, this worked. He came in, hit the wire.

He couldn't have been more than 15 feet away from the three of you, and you couldn't even wound it!

Should have given you rocks, not rifles.

There is not a trace of blood anywhere.

This is insane.

I assure you, we came close many times.

There must be blood.

The next time will be better!

Next time will be as this time!

The devil has come to Tsavo!

That's ridiculous talk, and you don't really believe it.

Now you are telling me my beliefs?

I don't think so!

I wasn't, and you know it, so don't force it.

Listen, we do have a problem in Tsavo.

At last, finally we agree. You are right. We do!

We do! You are the problem in Tsavo!

He is the problem in Tsavo!

You listen...

Be careful!

You don't tell me careful.

You don't tell me anything!

We are sick and tired of your lies!

You listen while I talk!

Change in plans.

Get them back! Now, get them all back!

Get them back!

Go back! Quickly, go back!

Go back! Go back!

Go back!

All right, you listen while I talk because you got a question needs answering.

Will I pull this trigger?

You don't know all that has happened here.

He will pull the trigger, Abdullah.

The devil has come to Tsavo!

Oh, you're right.

The devil has come to Tsavo. Look at me!

I am the devil.

I'm a man of peace!

You sound like a man who wants to live.

Most certainly. Absolutely. Yes.

Well, that's an excellent decision.

Your name is Abdullah.


Well, I'm sure we're going to meet again.

I think it's been a pleasure.

John Patterson.


Remington uses the Maasai to hunt lions.

It will cost you 10 head of cattle.

He takes some getting used to.

Why didn't you tell me you knew him?

You did not ask.

I didn't get a chance to thank you.

For what? What did I do?

Got me out of trouble.

Oh, that was nothing. Samuel was there.

He would have done something.

What was that all about, anyway?

There are over 40 dead.

Forty? That's amazing.

There's a few things you should know about these lions.

Let me save you some time.

Now, you're the engineer, and you're in charge of building the bridge.

Am I right so far?

That's right. All right, I am not an engineer, and I don't want to be in charge of building that bridge.

That's fine.

Now, I'm sure you probably hate Tsavo as much as I do, and knowing Beaumont, you're not the imbecile that he says you are.

So what do you say we help each other?

Now, I'm going to help you by killing the lions and then leaving, and you're going to help me by doing what I say so I can leave.

You see a problem with that?

Actually, no.

Let us prepare for battle.


All right...

First thing I'm going to propose is a new hospital, all right?

And I want it built by tomorrow night.

What? That's a terrible idea.

Oh, I'm sorry. You must be the doctor, right?

I'm sure you know what's best.

That's the most infantile thing I've ever heard in my life.

Now, whoever you are, will you mind telling me why on earth we should go through all that?

I suppose I could explain what, with the scent of flesh and blood in here, it makes for an inviting target.

I suppose I could tell you I just saw fresh paw prints out there which make me think they're already thinking about feasting in here, but I don't want to answer you because when you question me, you are saying to me that I don't know what I'm doing.

Now, anybody here think I'm a fool, then please speak up right now.

Colonel Patterson...

Well, then I guess we all agree.

I'm going to need you there with me tomorrow.

Whatever you wish.

Samuel says you killed a lion.

It was probably just luck.

Oh, nobody kills a lion with one shot by luck.

You might be useful tomorrow.

But even if you're not, you should understand this may take me two, maybe three days to sort this out.

But when I leave, you're still going to have to build that bridge, so I don't want your men to lose respect for you.

That's very considerate of you.

Well, I'm a very considerate man.

My mother taught me that.

Now, what the hell are you laughing about?

You don't think I'm considerate?

I don't believe you had a mother.

You really believe you can make something happen...


But you're not excited.

You don't enjoy killing, do you?

Then why do it?

Because I've got a gift.

I'm going to join them now.

We could try to convince each other that we're still brave.

I wouldn't have thought bravery would be a problem for you.

Well, you hope each time it won't be...

But you never really know.

Strange man.

Two great tribes of his country fought a terrible civil war for many years.

And his side lost?

Everything. Land and family.

Very young ones and the very old ones...

All lost.

He buried his family and left his country forever.

Now he hunts all over the world, but he always returns here.

He says Africa is the last good place.


Will you exchange weapons with me?

Mine's much more powerful. I won't be with you tomorrow.

I'll be finishing the new hospital.

Thank you.

Why does he need you with him? He doesn't.

We've hunted many times.

He knows I'm afraid of lions.

Well, I spotted at least one of them in the thicket.

Samuel, you're coming with me.

Chances are I'm going to kill that lion in the thicket.

Colonel, why don't you take the higher position there in case he gets through us?

You'll have a clear shot at him.

Shoot him.

Shoot him.

Shoot him! God damn it! Shoot him!

Shoot him!

What happened?

I don't know. What do you mean you don't know?


That the first time?

The gun belongs to Dr. Hawthorne.

You exchanged weapons?

You went into battle with an unproven rifle?


They got an expression in prizefighting.

Everybody's got a plan until they've been hit.

Well, my friend, you've just been hit.

The getting up, that's up to you.

They say they are leaving now because it does no good to be here.

They are not lions. They are the Ghost and the Darkness.

The Maasai did not see a lion. They saw the devil.

They knew there was not enough blood in all the world to make these demons stop drinking.

Remington laughed at us.

He said that they were only lions.

Gentlemen, there is no smell of sickness and very little blood.

We have removed all of the lions' temptations.

Now, when we leave this evening, I want you to lock this gate securely until the morning.

Keep those fires burning high. Are there any questions?

Aren't there any questions?

All right, you two sleep beautifully in your tent, and you stay there.

And where will you two sleep beautifully?

Colonel Patterson and I will spend the night waiting in the old hospital.

Won't we, Colonel?

And I can assure you, with the fresh scent of blood, those lions are going to find it irresistible.

Just think about something else.

Have you ever failed?

Only in life.

I meant to ask you, that trap you set in the boxcar, was that your idea?


Excellent notion.

I used the same device myself once.

But, of course, yours worked. No.

No, in point of fact, it didn't.

It was still a good idea.

Psst! Psst!

Johnny, get the lock.

We must not leave.

That's my hospital, for God's sake!

We must not leave! Let me go, Samuel.

Hurry up!

Get on!


One of us needs to be brave.

Would have been a beautiful bridge, Johnny.

It's funny how I didn't notice it before.

I guess I had some other things on my mind.

It's not actually something I would appreciate, except, you know, I got up this morning, and...

It's just such a pretty design and the setting is so beautiful.

You've just been hit.


The getting up's up to you.

And they're only lions.

Yeah. Yeah, they're only lions, yeah.

Well, I just saw some fresh paw prints heading out that way.

So, I guess we've both been hit.

Let's go after them.




Oh, Johnny boy.

Oh, Johnny boy.

When I was growing up, there was a bully in my hometown.

He used to terrorize everybody, but he wasn't the problem.

He had a brother who was worse than him, but he wasn't the problem either.

One or the other of them was always in jail.

The problem was when they were together.

Alone they're just bullies, but together, whew!

They were lethal.

They were real killers.

What happened to them? Well, I got bigger.

Oh, my God.

Holy Christ.

Lions don't do this.

Lions never had a lair like this.

They're doing it for the pleasure.

They'll know we've been here.

Oh, my God.

Both of them. Yeah, it's both of them.

Have you ever used a machan?

A what? Machan.

Is that one of those things you learned in India?

I figure they've got used to me in trees, so, if we put this in a clearing.

I'm not quite sure of the scale.

It might be too small for the both of us.

No, it won't because I ain't gonna be there.

This is your idea. You get up on that thing.

So, I'm to be bait alone.

That's right. I'm going to be in some tree too far away to protect you.

Now, can you control your fear?

I suppose I'll have to.

Lions hate the sound of a baboon.

Anything to make your evening more enjoyable.

Hey, this here's for you.

You might need it.

Well, this certainly is the best opportunity those lions have had to kill you.

Mzee, good luck.

Including the workers that I've lost and your knowledge of man-eaters, how many do you think they've killed?

Oh, more than any other lion.

A hundred, maybe more.

But you know something? I do believe this is going to work.


Because I think they're after you.

Oh, merry Christmas.


Oh, yeah. This is the month.

Son of a bitch.


Excuse me.

Why on earth do you laugh?

Because he is just like one of those bullies now.

He's alone for the first time, and he's afraid.

Somehow I don't think he's afraid of me.

You know, I just keep wondering if we're going to remember all this.

I love Africa.

I could never forget her.


Well, you're young, Johnny.

I mean, so many things flash by, and at that moment you say, "Oh, yeah. This is going to stay with me.

"Surely, I will never forget this dawn.

"This hunt.

"This passion." And then...

It's all gone.

But I hope it stays here.

Another toast.

To memory.

To memory.

I wanted to remember building the railroad.

The iron snake.

I was so excited.

Now I can't think why.

I know why I wanted to build the bridge, but I can tell you the memory I wanted most.

To see my son come into the world.

To bring worlds together.

Now, I...

Well, my life was shaped because someone invented gunpowder, and that's what took me around the world.

But the memory that I wanted...

That was the family that I lost.

You know, Charles,

you're a rather cheerful fellow when you get to know you.

Well, I should have warned you.

Good night.

Oh, Johnny.

When you meet your son, you hold him high.


Excuse me.

I'd like to see John Patterson, please.

Yes, ma'am.

Could you tell him that his wife...

That his family has come to see him?



Hello, darling!




I can see you.

Go back! Go back!


No! Go back! Go back!

Go back!


No, Charles.

Oh, God.





Where do you think you're going?

I'm going to sort it out.

I'm going... sort it out.

Get down!

Get down, John!



Colonel Patterson!

Colonel Patterson!

My name is Nigel Bransford.

I'm here to replace Angus Starling.

I'm so proud to meet you.

Patterson the Lion Killer.

I do wish I had been here for the hunt.

No, you don't.



Welcome to Tsavo, Nigel.

Patterson did hold his son high.

People came back.

Patterson finished the bridge.

People went their ways.

If you want to see the lions today, you must go to America.

They are at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois.

Even now, if you dare lock eyes with them, you will be afraid.